The Bible is being translated and revised again and again in order to provide an English Bible that corresponds with changes in culture, the English language, definitions, writing styles, and most importantly to keep up with the increased knowledge of the original texts and relevant cultures, and improve the accuracy of each translation.
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New American Standard Bible, NASB, is prized as the most literal word-for-word English Bible translation. Originally completed by The Lockman Foundation in La Habra, CA in 1971, it ended up getting a refresh in 1995 for clarity, grammar, vocab and sentence structure updates. They compared parallel passages in order to update their uses within each specific context, modified some paragraphing and punctuation, and added some new manuscript notes. Use of Thee, Thou, Thy and other archaic words and difficult word orders were considered and modified to update the language to more modern English at the time. Using literal translation principals they based their translation from KJV and ASV as well as some new research and resources that had come available for them to study. Hebrew texts used were Rudolph Kittel's Biblia Hebraica, Dead Sea Scrolls, lexicography, and cognate language. Greek texts used were 26th Edition of Eberhard Nestle's Novum Testamentum Graece.
It took ten years for the nearly 20 conservative Bible scholars to complete the original version of 1971 utilizing their combined variety of denominational backgrounds, degrees, theology and languages, and another three years to complete the revision of 1995. While there was much diversity on the translation team, they all believed that the words of scripture were inspired by God and needed to be preserved. They put rigorous review processes in place in order to ensure the final product would be accurate and honoring to the original texts.
They referenced the most recent research of the time and the oldest and most reliable manuscripts available. Original order of words and phrases were translated where it would be acceptable in English, but where unacceptable in English they used modern idioms, and indicated the literal renderings in the margins.
The NASB is an incredibly literal yet modernized English translation that honors the original texts while letting the reader be the interpreter.
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The English Standard Version, ESV, was published in 2001. As the English language continues to change and evolve there are scholars and translators that strive to provide an English Bible that keeps up with those changes. The ESV translators used KJV, ASV, RSV, RV, and Tyndale’s NT. They also heavily cross-referenced against the original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic to help ensure accuracy and clarity, as well as to avoid any over-translating or overlooking of any variations.
Crossway, the copyright owners of the ESV, state in the preface of the printed ESV Bible “faithfulness to the text and vigorous pursuit of accuracy were combined with simplicity, beauty, and dignity of expression.” They wanted to update the language for the new modern-age reader while keeping to the accuracy and honoring the dignity of the well-loved and trusted translations before it.
ESV is a word-for-word, or literal, translation. It follows the same translations philosophies of the KJV and ASV while taking into consideration differences between the original languages and English. The flow of sentences, punctuation and paragraphing were done so that they flow well in English, but the repetitiveness of connective words like “and”, “but” and “for” were kept in tact to avoid diminishing the flow of the scriptures. In areas where gender is specified in the original languages, ESV captures those instances and corrects any previous losses of specification as well as the reverse of removing specification where the original texts did not indicate a specific gender case.
The translators took great care in how they approached important terms such as names for God, naming Christ, words that have completely different meanings now than they did when the original texts were written, capitalizations of deity pronouns, and the term “behold”. They worked very hard to honor the original languages and meanings, and translate them into the most accurate modern English. Accuracy and flow certainly seem to be the biggest focus with the ESV, making it a well-loved translations for its modern readability with accuracy and literalness.